Delaware attorney Randall Fuller is sitting in a unique position until the November general election.
Fuller defeated Christopher Geer in the March 15 Republican primary for Delaware County’s new domestic relations court judgeship and has no opponent in the November general election.
“It’s a weird period for me right now because I’m not judge or judge-elect,” he said. “I haven’t won the general election.”
But since he is the only one in the race, a title has been given him. “The way I heard it phrased is that I’m the ‘presumptive judge-elect,’” Fuller said.
But the election doesn’t concern Fuller as much as the amount of work it will take to create a brand-new court.
“Right now I’m more concerned about the court and having a smooth transition,” Fuller said. “There are a number of challenges and some of them I don’t even know yet.”
The court was created last year by state lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich last fall in order to address the growing needs of the county’s court system. The new domestic relations division in the Delaware County Common Pleas Court will hear cases regarding matters like divorce, dissolution, separation, annulment, visitation and child support.
Since domestic relation cases are currently spread out between two court divisions, Fuller said he thinks creating the new court is a wonderful thing. “It will bring uniformity to the system which will help the attorneys to work with the clients,” he said. “My goal is to have one unified process so attorneys can tell their clients how it’s going to be. It will make the clients less anxious. I think that will be a very good thing.”
Fuller faces the challenge of setting up the court and then moving it to the county’s new judicial center — now under construction — once it’s finished in the summer of 2017.
However, he said he does consider it a blessing that he can focus more on the new court challenges for the next few months, instead of running a full campaign in November.
“We have the next eight months or so to figure it out,” Fuller said. “I’m in the learning phases of this but it’s been done before and I’m going to talk to people who have gone through this to make sure I’m doing everything I need to.”
Fuller said he has had conversations with judges in the county about the new court.
“The good thing is we have good elected officials and the judges are great to work with,” he said. “I’ve known the judges for years and years and years. I’m really excited to be doing the planning and I like the business aspect of it.”
Fuller said he considers himself more than qualified to be the domestic relations judge. He has practiced domestic relations law in Delaware for 21 years. “It’s an area I enjoy and it’s also an area of great importance to me,” he said.
However, Fuller said he didn’t start out to practice law. He said he wanted to be a farmer until he took a business law class in his last year at Ohio State University. “I just loved it,” he said. “I went to law school from there.”
During Fuller’s campaign, people would ask questions about how he would handle same-sex divorces.
The answer: “Just like any other divorce,” he said. “I will be sworn to uphold the laws of the state of Ohio and the Constitution. That’s what I’m going to do. When I’m elected judge, everybody is going to be treated the same.”
Fuller said he is keenly aware of the growing number of custody actions in which people are not married and have children. “The number of people having kids out of wedlock is growing,” he said. “This court is going to have more interaction with people than the other courts. I want to do what is best for the children going through the process.”
Before Fuller takes his seat at the bench, there are a few classes he’ll need to attend to become a judge. The Ohio Supreme Court holds a mandatory “new judge class” after the November election for all new judges.
“The judges here are great,” he said. “They want to see if I can start taking some judicial classes. I’m going to a seminar this summer. I want to be as prepared as possible from day one to move this court where it needs to go.”
From within the two courts that now deal with domestic relations are many talented people Fuller said he could use to create his staff. “My personal belief is you need good experienced people in the court system,” he said. “There are good experienced people there now. I have no desire to bring in all new people or anything like that. We need to work with the experience of the people we have there now. The court needs stability.” However, he acknowledges that “I can’t guarantee the people anything. … It’s not appropriate at this time.”
Before Fuller takes the judgeship, he has to close his law practice. He said a couple of clients called him, upset about him running for judge because they didn’t want to lose him as an attorney. “That felt good,” he said. “You don’t get many compliments as an attorney.”
Thinking back to the night of the March primary election, he said: “It was exciting. I felt very humbled, very blessed and very honored that Delaware County elected me by such a wide margin.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.